The whiskey business is booming like never before, with sales of premium spirit up 104% in the past decade and craft distilleries springing up like dandelions around the country. How to navigate the (strong) waters? Pick up a copy of Whiskey: A Spirited Story, the essential new guidebook by Michael Dietsch from the Countryman Press, out this week.
Designed to be a snob-free guide to the history and appreciation of whiskey, the book recounts episodes such as how early distillers’ attempts to hide from tax collectors gave Scotch its famous character; how the Irish War of Independence and American Prohibition together nearly ended a 500-year tradition of Irish whiskey; and why a Japanese whisky company with less than 100 years in the business now owns such venerable brands as Maker’s Mark, Canadian Club, and Laphroaig.
Once you've finished all that you'll have worked up a thirst, which is where the second half of the book comes in: 75 whiskey cocktails, from the historic to the modern, along with the story behind each one.
Top whiskey bars from around the country contributed everything from well-worn classics like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned to forgotten favorites like the Twelve Mile Limit (named for a Prohibition–era smuggling method), and newer drinks like the Penicillin. Here's a couple on us:
Police Gazette Cocktail
Ingredients: 2 1/2 oz. rye; 2 dashes French vermouth; 3 dashes simple syrup; 2 dashes Angostura bitters; 2 dashes Cointreau; 2 dashes maraschino liqueur.
Directions: Pour ingredients into a chilled mixing glass; add enough cracked ice to fill glass about 2/3rds full; stir about 30 seconds; strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Ingredients: 1/2 lemon, quartered; 5 large mint leaves; 3/4 oz. simple syrup; 2 oz. bourbon, preferably Maker's Mark Cask Strength; mint sprigs.
Directions: In a cocktail shaker add lemon wedges and mint; use a muddler to smash gently; add simple syrup, bourbon, and ice; shake well to chill and combine; strain into an ice-filled rocks glass; garnish with mint sprigs.